Thoughts On: Beauty

Like all Mommies, I think my kids are beautiful. Of course we think our kids are beautiful. And really, they all are. Full of life, full of questions, full of jokes, full of attitude, small, beautiful humans. Since the first moment I walked outside the hospital with little Picky Princess, people have crossed the street to tell me what a beautiful child she is. And while I see what they do in her magical face, the things I find so beautiful about her are the things that come with 6 years of observation. I think the one freckle so perfectly placed under her right eye is so beautiful. I love that she is a wild mess most of the time, crazy haired and rainbow clad. I love how her pristine face stands out as a pocket of white paint on a graffiti’d canvas. I love the moments when she laughs for real. In those moments I find her too beautiful to look directly at. When she sleeps I can hardly tear my eyes away from her little face. It’s so white it glows.

It’s also interesting to me how a child, particularly a girl, processes all this attention. With a big wide world telling her she is so beautiful, she definitely has come to agree. She is quick to comment on being beautiful, yet doesn’t necessarily seem to place a lot of value on it. She will say, Of course I’m beautiful, with the same matter of fact tone of, Of course my socks are blue. She doesn’t seek to enhance it with tiaras and make up and princess dresses. At least not very often.

It’s important, how little girls wade through the beauty topic. It’s important what she sees in the women around her. For every comment I hear someone make to her about her beautiful blue eyes, I try to make my own to her about her incredible creativity, her kindness to her little sister, her willingness to help. The things that make her a Beautiful Soul, not just a Beautiful Face. I think my friends are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. But even in how I talk about them to my girls, I try to comment on their beautiful character, that they are great listeners and generous friends.

I believe in a family culture of honor. When, God forbid, the meanness of the world creeps in and tells her anything other than that she’s beautiful, my hope is that a lifetime of being honored for the beauty of her soul, will resound louder and longer than the crack of the hurtful.

So tonight we have dinner in honor of our recent Kindergarten Graduate! She has requested sea bass(of course, most random request ever) and caramel cake. So we have fish tacos, salsa verde, watermelon and caramel cake on the menu. I made THIS caramel cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and whipped up a twist on salsa verde, recipe below. Tonight our family who are friends and friends who are family will gather and honor the Beautiful: that her teacher said she was kind and inclusive, that she was a strong leader, that she is incredibly artistic, that she worked hard to learn how to read and speak spanish and sing harmonies. A little Beautiful Soul (with incredible beautiful blue eyes).

Salsa Verde:

10 small tomatillos

1/2 jalapeno, most of the seeds removed

juice of 2 limes

large handful of cilantro

1 mango

sea salt to taste

Directions: chop all ingredients very finely. Stir together. Best if left to sit overnight. Serve with tortilla chips or on fish tacos!

Recipe: Almost Spring Salad

As I look out my sunny window, the brightness from the snow doesn’t really scream of spring being near. But the warmth of the afternoon sun these days and the slow influx of color at the Farmers market makes me think that yes, spring will return. This salad is a mixture of tastes, some winter, some spring. A blending, if you will. Roasted balsamic beets, nutty cashews, warm comforty tastes of winter. Sweet pea shoots, the color of springs first grass.

Almost Spring Salad

1lb beets – rinsed, trimmed, roasted until tender and then thinly sliced

4 cups baby spinach

4 cups sweet pea shoots

1/2 cup roasted salted cashews

good quality balsamic reduction (or you can easily make your own by simmering balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half. cool and drizzle

option: thinly sliced natural ham, baked in a hot oven until crisped

Directions: Assemble the greens on a plate. Top with cashews and roasted beets. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Enjoy. Obviously the ham can be omitted for a vegetarian version.

Recipe: S’more Cookie Bars

heaven

‘Tis the season for Christmas cookie exchanges! Something about Christmas seems to make even the least kitcheny person a little bit more likely to bust out a rolling pin or cookie cutters. I learned a really brilliant lesson this Christmas Cookie Exchange Season, in fact I’m relieved to be learning this now in my early 30s. Ready? Cookie bars. This is the answer to parties where you need to have 9 dozen cookies perfectly packaged. It’s not the mixing that takes long, nor the actual baking time. It’s the rolling/cutting/or even dropping a zillion evenly placed cookies onto rotating baking sheets, parchment, silpat and the like. Cookie bars solve all this. Mix, bake, cut, give. Then instead of cutting the cookie bar into little pieces, I gave them away as a big bar, maybe 6″x6″, wrapped in parchment paper and ribbon. SO EASY.

I came across this recipe from Here . It is so easy, works out great, and pays tribute to (let’s be honest) the most loved confection of all times, the S’more. So Thank you Lovin’ From the Oven for my new absolute favorite cookie bar recipe! (You may also remember my honest and vulnerable confession about my obsession with marshmallows).

I wanted to take a minute to thank the Calgary Herald for listing Fig&Fennel as one of Calgary’s favorite food blogs! And thank YOU for reading! That was a very nice surprise to wake up to yesterday.

S’more Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)

1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.  Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 16 cookie bars.

graham dough

chocolate layer

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Well Hello!!!

It’s been a long time! I hope you are all warm and well with people you love. I can’t believe fall is gone and Christmas is nearly upon us. I’m finding myself drawn to simpler things this year. Other years I find time and inspiration for decor and crafts and elaborate desserts and dinner parties and new recipes galore. This year I’m happy to read the girls Christmas books, toboggan, and meet friends for a glass of wine. But I am grateful for the season. Grateful for winter magic in little girl eyes.

Mini Cookbook update: I know. I know. I’m working on it. It’s too long and dreary to explain but let’s just summarize: new publisher, new format, first experience outsourcing(amazing), new graphic work, not a lot of free time, setting up online purchasing, soon.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t cooked anything since I last blogged which was…2 months ago. It’s true. Sexy Husband is on tour, Picky Princess and (super picky) Foodie Baby eat about 1 calorie each for supper, so I slice a lot of apples and boil a lot of eggs. I’m unapologetic. It’s the season. And seasons change all the time.

THIS recipe, however, is amazing. It is a no-fail-go-to-every-winter-binge-worthy dessert. It is easy and was handed down to me by a lady named Gail, who is wonderful. Gail is a friend of mine from Saskatoon, where I went to university. I was just there to watch a show Sexy Husband sang in and…she made it again! It brought back the happiest most nostalgic memories, even though I’ve made them myself every winter. Something about Gail making them, reminded me of cold COLD winters in Saskatchewan, surrounded by the warmest people I’ve ever met. I can’t actually find the original recipe she gave me, but it’s one that I can make in my sleep because it’s THAT GOOD. If you have holiday parties, cookie exchanges, or boring lonely nights when your husband is away on tour: this is a great treat. I’ve discovered this year that is pairs nicely with red wine(go figure).

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 can sweet and condensed milk(Eagle Brand)

1 bag(approx) chocolate chips

raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and stir to combine. Press 2/3 of dough into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from oven and drizzle with Eagle Brand, chocolate chips, small dollops of raspberry jam(try to space evenly for a little on every square) and the rest of the dough. Bake for 20 minutes more until edges are turning golden. Remove and cool completely. Cut into small squares(or large ones, whatever). They are much easier to cut if they’ve been in the freezer for a little bit.

Happy December!

Recipe: Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies

blueberry thumbprint cookies

Oh fall is in the air! I like fall, the crisp air, the warm sun, yellow light, falling leaves. I also like the possibility held in new routines and adventures. Picky Princess started Kindergarten last week, which has led to all sorts of changes in our routine. It also means that I have quiet afternoons with her while Foodie Baby sleeps.

Cookie baking is always a favorite afternoon activity. Usually I make a big batch of healthy cookies so I can pack them as kindergarten garbage-free snacks. This week, however, we had a big box of blueberries to use up. So we made our own blueberry jam and put them in the middle of happy little cookies.

The cookie recipe itself was adapted from Martha Stewarts Cookies cookbook(absolutely the best cookie cookbook on earth). The original recipe is called Chocolate Thumbprints. Here’s our little spin on it:

Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 2 dozen approx

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups flour

approx 1 cup blueberries, rinsed

2 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium until smooth, approx 2 mins. Beat in flour on low until combined. For small balls of dough and place them one inch apart on baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes. Use your thumb to make an indent in the centre of the dough. Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes more, until turning slightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile. In a small saucepan, combine blueberries and sugar. Stir and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon jam into thumbprints in cookies.

Recipe: Mini Frittatas

mini frittatas

 

It has been a BIG week around here. Picky Princess started Kindergarten today. I felt like maybe I should be teary about it, but honestly she’s so ready and so excited about life and wants it so badly, it’s hard to be anything but excited for her. Foodie Baby did not agree and cried her heart out saying goodbye to big sister. Apparently I’m not a fun alternative.

IronSister also had her baby! I think I’m going to refer to him as baby Braveheart until I come up with something better. IronSister asked me to be with her when she had the baby, which was an incredible honor, and also the most terrifying experience of my life. In the fastest lightning few hours, tiny Braveheart joined us, 6lbs 2oz of perfection. I have been desperate to cuddle him as much as possible so I keep cooking and baking so I can call and say, oh I’m just going to drop off some muffins…be right over. She’s happy. I’m happy. My kids seem like teenagers compared to him.

All this excitement led to one of the yummiest kitchen inventions ever created in my kitchen! They are easy, healthy, delicious. So basically: check check check. If you need ideas for dinner, give this a try.

Mini Frittatas

2 large potatoes, shredded

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for muffin tins

4 eggs

2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/2 orange pepper, finely chopped

sea salt

Directions: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Preheat oven to 350. Saute potatoes in oil until soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often. In a separate bowl, mix all other ingredients(just a bit of sea salt, the feta and sundried tomatoes add lots of flavor). Dump potatoes into other ingredients and stir to combine. Grease 2 muffin tins with olive oil. Scoop potato/egg mixture into muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes until eggs are cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and loosen edges to scoop out. Serve at any temperature!

Recipe: Saskatoon Berry Muffins

saskatoon berry muffins

The cookbook is in the hands of the editor!!! Yay! I’m so thrilled with it and really happy with how it’s all coming together! But more on that soon. We have had such a beautiful summer. We have picnicked to our hearts content, had many amazing super fresh super easy meals, and eaten plenty of gritty, dirt still on them carrots from the Farmers Market. Love love LOVE summer.

Here’s a healthy and easy muffin recipe the little girls and I whipped up this morning. Enjoy!

muffin batter

Saskatoon Berry Muffins

2 cups spelt flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 brick of cream cheese

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 egg

1 cup plain greek yogurt

1 cup saskatoon berries

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin with paper(12 large and 12 mini or 18 large). Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add agave nectar. Scrape down bowl. Add egg and beat until smooth. Stir in yogurt. Stir in dry ingredients until not quite combined. Add berries and stir until barely combined. Scoop into muffin tins. Bake for 10 minutes at 450. Reduce heat to 400 and bake for 5 mins more. Muffins will be golden on top. Serve warm.

Recipe: Rhubarb Shortbread

Rhubarb Shortbread

…brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things…particularly if the brown paper package is filled with rhubarb straight from the garden, delivered by a friend, and still with the slightest bit of dirt on the stalks.  Just such a package arrived for me this week from a Beautiful Soul and I’ve had a great time making rhubarb inspired meals. We had rhubarb compote on chicken breasts, strawberry rhubarb crumble, and tonight’s experiment: rhubarb shortbread. This recipe is loosely taken from a Smitten Kitchen recipe that is one of my summer favorites. A few changes and voila. The sweet and nutty brown sugar spelt shortbread with the tang of the rhubarb is absolutely delicious. It all tastes a bit like…summer!

Rhubarb Shortbread

makes a lot

3 cups spelt flour(or regular unbleached flour)

1 cup brown or raw sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups thinly chopped rhubarb

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 9×13 baking dish. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add butter and egg and work together with a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Tightly press 3/4 of mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the rhubarb over the shortbread. Top with remaining shortbread mixture. Bake for about 30 mins until edges are turning golden. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares.

Think Fresh: Portobello Mushrooms

portobello salad

Wow! How did 2 weeks of no blogging sneak past me? I’ll tell you how: cookbook production! The cookbook is coming along at a snails pace but you must know that there is love in every recipe and every microscopic text change.

The girls and I have been walking to the park(in our rain gear, don’t get me started) every day before dinner and one things is clear: it’s bbq season. The smell of bbq’d meat fills the air, competing with the perfumey May Day trees. It means summer must be close. We love to bbq(we as in all of us right?). We bbq all sorts of things, not much of which is meat. We do the odd chicken breast, some sausages and maybe even a steak once or twice a summer. But we do a lot of bbq’d veggies, bbq pizzas and my all time favorite, bbq portobellos. These giant meaty mushrooms are delicious grilled and give the satisfaction of bbqing without the meat. There are many great ways to eat portobellos, like a burger is probably my favorite way. But here’s an easy little recipe for a light dinner, that is filling and satisfying. Enjoy!

Portobello Salad

Drizzle portobellos(1 per person) with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. Grill until softened and juices release. Carefully, without spilling the juices, transfer to a baking sheet and slice. Prepare salad: pile up any greens you like, add some thinly sliced pears and some shaved parmesan. Top with mushroom slices and pour juices over as the dressing. So easy, so delicious!

Recipe: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Scones

just going into the oven

I had one of those epiphanies this week, where I thought to myself…Am I insane? Why have I never done this before? There must be some reason. Do I not bake with strawberries for a reason?… Honestly, the entire recipe I kept thinking, these aren’t going to turn out because there must be some reason to not bake with strawberries. But nope, they turned out great and I’m still a bit confused why there don’t seem to be more chocolate strawberry recipes. I always go for raspberries and chocolate! So anyway, these were on the somewhat not-too-guilty-pleasure side of baked goods. They were easy and decadent. My little people gave me dramatic ooos and ahhs and the house smelled too good for words!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Scones

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup raw sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

6 tbs unsalted butter cut into small pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg

1/2 cup strawberries, finely chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wax paper on a counter. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, place all ingredients, wet stuff on the bottom, dry stuff on top. Mix on low until dough JUST comes together. Do not overmix or scones will be tough(this is always a rule for scones or muffins). When dough is coming together, and mine felt quite wet, put onto wax paper and press into a 9 inch disk. Cut into 12 pieces and place on parchment lined baking sheet. (you can always flour a countertop and put the dough there, but I find it’s easy to over flour and then you have scones that are a bit too dry). Bake for about 20-25 minutes until turning golden. Serve warm. These scones are definitely best the day they are made, but sufficed for breakfast the next morning too! Enjoy!

dough disk

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